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Common crackers for common folk

By Phyllis HanesStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / April 18, 1988

IN New England, no old-time country store was complete without a large wooden barrel full of common crackers. ``It was one of the fixtures of rural Vermont general stores along with a wheel of genuine aged Vermont cheddar cheese,'' says Lyman Orton, owner of the Vermont Country Stores.

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The common cracker almost disappeared from sight until Mr. Orton's father, Vrest Orton, revived them in the early 1980s, setting up a bakery in the annex of his Rockingham, Vt., store.

Also called ``biscuit,'' ``chowder cracker,'' ``Boston common cracker,'' and ``Medford cracker,'' this special kind of cracker is plain, round, and white - bland in flavor and dry in texture. Its distinguishing characteristic is that it can easily be split to make two rounds.

Orton has a patent for these crackers, which were first made in Vermont in 1828. He bakes them in a vintage, 60-year-old common cracker machine that kneads the dough, then cuts it into the right size for baking.